IFJ Asia Pacific Bulletin: April

Welcome to the IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on May 1, 2016 and contributions from affiliates are most welcome. To contribute, email ifj@ifj-asia.org

Please distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media.

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ifjasiapacific

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific

Join the IFJ Asia-Pacific mailing list here

In this bulletin:

1. IFJ and affiliates vow to fight Timor Leste Prime Minister defamation lawsuit

2. Impunity win: Pakistani journalist killer sentenced to life  

3. Australian TV crew arrested in Malaysia

4. Impunity win: conviction in journalist murder in the Philippines

5. Media crackdown continues in Chhattisgarh, India

6. International Partnership Report calls for journalist safety mechanism in Nepal

7. Chinese government strengthens investigation into President Xi letter

8. Journalists and media workers attacked in Pakistan

9. Japan’s media unions call for release of kidnapped Journalist in Syria

10. Australian journalists vow to fight massive job cuts at Fairfax

11. Thai media reform continues in worrying direction

12. Chinese Government tightens grip on media

13. Maldives government proposes criminal defamation legislation

14. Join the IFJ for World Copyright Day

15. Myanmar journalist’s home bombed

16. Safety conditions continue to deteriorate for Afghan media

17. IFJ prepares to celebrate WPFD 2016

1. IFJ and affiliates vow to fight Timor Leste Prime Minister defamation lawsuit

Following a report published in November 2015, Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo filed a defamation lawsuit against Timor Leste journalist Raimundo Oki from the Timor Poston January 22, 2016. The lawsuit relates to a report published by  Oki on November 10, which said that Prime Minister Araujo, in his previous capacity as advisor to the Minister for Finance recommended the winning bid for a project to supply and install computer equipment to the new Ministry of Finance building in 2014. According to Timor Leste’s Penal Code, Article 285 (1), defamation for false accusations is a crime punishable for up to three years.

On March 28, Oki was summoned to the prosecutor general’s office to launch the investigation. As he had not secured legal representation, the meeting was adjourned until April 11, 2016. The IFJ will send an international legal observer to Timor Leste for the hearing on April 11.

The South East Asia Journalist Unions (SEAJU) condemned the lawsuit, highlighting the increasing use of criminal defamation across the region to silence critics. Similar suits have been filed across the Asia-Pacific in recent years. In the Philippines, radio journalist Rey Cabaraban was arrested on June 9, 2015 stemming from a libel case filed by the Bikdnon governor, Jose Maria Zubiri Jr. In Myanmar, charges were filed by the government against 17 journalists in 2015 and in Thailand, two journalists, Chutmai Sidasathian and Australian Alan Morison, were sued under defamation laws by the Thai Navy, albeit acquitted later by the Phuket Provincial court.

Read more here and here.

2. Impunity win: Pakistani journalist killer sentenced to life

Aminullah, the killer of Jang Group journalist Ayub Khattak was convicted by the District and Sessions Court in Karak district of Pakistan on March 16. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and fined 5 million rupees (USD 50,000) for the 2013 murder. Aminullah’s brother, Khood Niaz, was acquitted after he was accused of being an accomplice. Khattak was killed when Aminullah fired shots at him near his residence in Takht Nusrati area and the murder was linked to Khattak’s reporting in Karak Times about drug business in the area in which Aminullah was involved. Aminullah’s conviction is only the third in Pakistan, where the IFJ has recorded over 100 journalist murder cases since 2000.

Read more here.

3. Australian TV crew arrested in Malaysia

On March 12, ABC reporter Linton Besser and ABC camera operator Louie Eroglu were detained on by local police after an attempt to question the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, earlier in the day regarding a corruption scandal. The two media workers were arrested under the Malaysian Penal Code, Section 186 for obstructing a public servant in discharge of a public function. According to the ABC, the crew was detained after taking part in a political “walkabout” in Kampung Haji Baki where Besser attempted question the prime minister about the ‘political donation’ of RM2.6 billion (USD6.3 million) deposited into his personal bank accounts in 2013. Later police picked up the two Australian media workers and their local fixer, Edgar Ong, after they returned to their hotel. They were detained for six hours before being released on bail without charge.

Read more here.

4. Impunity win: conviction in journalist murder in the Philippines

On Monday, March 7, Arturo ‘Nonoy’ Regalado, the former aide of Palawan governor Joel Reyes was found ‘guilty beyond reasonable doubt’ for Ortega’s murder by the Palawan Regional Trial Court Branch 52. Ortega, a well-known Filipino broadcaster and environmentalist, was shot dead on January 24, 2011, as he shopped in a local store in Puerto Princess in Palawan, in the south-western MIMAPORA province. Ortega was one of Palawan’s strongest voices against corruption, particularly about mining in the province. The court found that Regalado purchased the gun used to kill Ortega. He was sentenced to reclusion perpetua, which carries a minimum jail term of 20 years and one day and a maximum term of 40 years.

Gerry Ortega’s case is one of 51 cases among 117 listed by the government established Task Force Usig as work-related media killings. Among the 51 cases, there have been only six convictions, Regalado’s being the seventh. In November 2014, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told the IFJ that the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons had listed “100 priority cases”, including 54 which were determined as media-related killings, including Ortega’s. Outcomes on the Inter-Agency remain unclear.

Read more here.

5. Media crackdown continues in Chhattisgarh, India

Deepak Jaiswal, a journalist for local Hindi newspaper, Dainik Dainadini, was arrested while he covered the proceedings at the district court in Dantewada, Bastar on March 26. Jaiswal was covering the proceedings against another journalist, Prabhat Singh, a reporter with local Hindi paper, Patrika, who himself was arrested on March 22 over posts he made in a social media group on WhatsApp mocking a senior police officer. Singh was arrested under Section 67 of India’s Information Technology Act following complaints of the messages he had posted. Singh faced court on March 22, where he was ordered into police custody until March 30.

In March 2015, they both also published a report detailing how teachers at a Dantewada school were helping students cheat exams. Complaints were filed against the journalists by the school, which claimed that the two journalists entered the school without the principal’s permission, manhandled staff and demanded money from them.

Read more here.

6. International Partnership Report calls for journalist safety mechanism in Nepal

Ten months after the Nepal International Media Partnership (NIMP) took part in a 6-day mission hosted by IFJ affiliate, FNJ, in Nepal, the Partnership released, Report of the International Mission to Nepal for Promoting Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalist. The mission went to Nepal to assess the media freedom situation in the country, with the aim to expand the space for freedom of expression and express solidarity with the local media community. During the mission, the NIMP held meetings with government officials, policy makers, NHRC officials and consultants, media stakeholders and local media.

Among the key recommendations in the report, specific recommendations regarding safety and impunity aim to improve the situation facing Nepal’s media. The recommendations call for effective steps to resolve all serious cases of attacks on journalists, the implementation of the Working Journalist Act, the development of ethical guidelines and professional standards and protection measures for all media staff.

Read more here

7. Chinese government strengthens investigation into President Xi letter

On March 4, a letter calling for President Xi Jinping’s resignation was published on watching.cn, a state and private sector joint venture online media outlet. The letter, which watching claim was posted by hackers was immediately taken down; however since early March the authorities have conducted an extensive investigation. Since the letter was posted online, several staff members have disappeared for several days, including watching.cn CEO, Ouyang Hongliang and executive chief editor, Huang Zhijie. On March 22, watching.cn shut down its website after an investor ceased financial support and suggested the website be taken offline.

Harassment of media workers has extended beyond the staff of watching.cn. Wen Yunchao, an activist in exile in the USA said that his family members still in China have been harassed by authorities. On March 22, Wen’s parents and brother were taken into police custody by Guangdong police and they accused Wen of being involved in the publication of the open letter. Prior to taking Wen’s family into custody, police had been interrogating the family for over two weeks. While Zhang Ping (also known as Chang Ping), a journalist in exile in Germany, who currently works for Deutsche Welle said that a number of his family members still based in China had been taken into police custody. On March 27, three of Zhang’s siblings were taken into police custody by the Sichuan police during a family function. One of the siblings was released on March 28; however the other two remain in custody.
Read more here

8. Journalists and media workers attacked by protesters in Pakistan

In two separate incidents, journalists in Pakistan have been attacked by protestors and mobs. On March 4, demonstrators from rallies organised to protest the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, stormed the press club premises, attacking staff and members, ransacking the offices and torching a number of motorcycles. Press Club president, Ali Ahmed was beaten up during the attack, while a cameraman from 92-News Qasim fractured his leg and several others were also injured trying to protect the premises. Similarly, a number of media workers were also attacked in Lahore, including PFUJ Lahore-based leader, Rana Azeem, who sustained injuries that required hospital treatment. The demonstrators allegedly targeted the media for not covering the funeral of Qadri, following his execution on March 2. There were also reports of attacks against media workers and equipment in Karachi and Faisalabad.

In a separate incident on the 27th of March, dozens of assailants stormed the Karachi Press Club (KPC), attacked journalists, grabbed cameras, and tried to set the KPC and a DSNG van of Jaag TV on fire with the petrol. The mob comprising of 60 to 70 people violently attacked media staff from Jaag TV and Channel 92, as journalists remained stuck inside the KPC building. The attack in Karachi came after a similar mob attack on the Hyderabad Press Club on March 4.  Apparently, the attack broke out after a number of religious groups complained about a media blackout on the coverage of their activities, once again regarding Mumtaz Qadri.

Read more here and here.

9. Japan’s media unions call for release of kidnapped Journalist in Syria

On March 16, 2016, a video was released on Facebook and Twitter showing missing Japanese journalist, Jumpei Yasuda, a 42-year-old, freelance journalist. In the video Mr Yasuda is seen in sending a message to his family and making an appeal to the Japanese government to work for his release. Suspicions around Mr Yasuda’s safety and whereabouts surfaces in July 2015, after regular social media updates stopped on June 20.

According to the Japan Times, Kyodo News reported that the Syrian man who posted the video online had received it from a Nusra Front representative, Al Qaeda affiliated group in Syria. When asked about the video, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said later the man in the video seemed to be Yasuda. He said that officials had “taken some actions, because securing safety for Japanese citizens is a top priority for the government.”

Read more here.

10. Australian journalists vow to fight massive job cuts at Fairfax

On March 17, Fairfax media editorial director Sean Aylmer informed staff of The Age in Melbourne by email offices and by direct announcement to Sydney Morning Herald staff that they would “shortly enter a consultation period with staff and the MEAA on a proposal to reduce costs across news and business in Sydney and Melbourne newsrooms by the equivalent of 120 full-time employees”, saying they this would be achieved “through redundancies, tightening contributor budgets and reducing travel costs and expenses.”

Strikes were held across Australia at Fairfax outlets including at the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times who each stopped work for 72 hours.

The recent announcement of cuts, are the latest in over five years of restructuring and massive job losses at Fairfax media. There are also reports that Fairfax plans to reduce its number of stories from 9,000 to 6,000 per month, which will ultimately impact on its media presence, as well as reduce the quantity of news for consumers.

In more recent developments, MEAA reported that 12.6 full-time equivalent positions, including 10 from editorial, are proposed to be cut from The Canberra Times. The number of photographers will be halved. The remaining journalists will be expected to sub-edit their own copy.

Read more here and here

11. Thai media reform continues in worrying direction

In early February the Thai junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee released the draft Constitution for comments from stakeholders. A two week window was granted for comments with the committee expected to deliver the revised charter by the end of March. Although no revised charter has been shared with the public, Thai process says that a Constitutional referendum will be held in July, 2016 for voting on the new constitution.

Under the draft that was shared in February there were a number of aspects that strongly curtailed press freedom and free expression. According to SEAPA, there were a number of concerns for the media, including: less editorial independence for journalists in state-owned media (Section 35, paragraph 6); the possibility of more state control over the media through subsidies (Section 35, paragraph 5); the state and the existing National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) will direct and control the distribution of broadcast frequencies. The current NBTC will no longer be considered as an independent regulatory body as the state will have to order its reestablishment following the passage of the draft constitution (Section 56, paragraph 1 and 3 and Section 265); and the inclusion of “national interest” and “security of state” rather than only public interest as factors in broadcast frequency regulation (Section 56, paragraph 1 and 3 and Section 265).

Read more here.

12. Chinese Government tightens grip across on media

A prominent and relatively outspoken Mainland media outlet, Caixin, reported via its Twitter account that the Cyberspace Administration Office (CAO) had deleted a series of its articles that included interviews with Jiang Hong, on March 8. The articles in question were published on March 3, in which Jiang did not criticize the authority directly, but made obscure remarks about President Xi Jinping’s comments on state media and the party. After the deletion of the original article, Caixin interviewed Jiang once again. He stated in the second article that he was quite surprised by the deletion of the first. Almost immediately after the second article was published, it too was deleted. Additionally, the BBC reported that the South China Morning Post’s (SCMP) Weibo and Wechat accounts’ in Mainland China had been suspended on March 7. And on March 11, Cai Chu, an editor for the US-based website Canyu.org issued a statement on how he had been attack and harassed online following the publication of an online letter

On March 13, Li Kai, the editor of Xinhua was suspended following the publication of an article which said that President Xi was the ‘last leader of China’ instead of the ‘highest leader of China’.

On March 16, Gu Jia, a current member of the journalism faculty with Sun Tau University in Guangzhou and former editor of Hong Kong-based Initium Media, was also allegedly detained by authorities as he tried to travel from Beijing to Hong Kong. According to an Apple Daily report, Gu was last heard from at 8pm, when he called his wife telling her he had just cleared customs and was waiting to board the flight. According to The Guardian, just three days before his disappearance, Gu Jia tweeted “Literature must intervene in politics until politics doesn’t intervene in literature any more. “The arts must intervene in politics until politics doesn’t intervene in the arts any more. Journalism must intervene in politics until politics doesn’t intervene in journalism anymore.”  

Read more here, here and here.

 

13. Maldives government proposes criminal defamation legislation

More than six years after the Maldivian government, led by President Mohammad Nasheed decriminalised defamation, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives Parliamentary Group leader MP Ahmed Nihan presented the defamation and freedom of expression bill to the Maldives parliament. The draft law, prescribes hefty fines of between MVR50, 000 (US$3,200) and MVR5 million (US$324,000) as penalties for violations, with offenders who fail to pay the court-imposed fine will face a one-year jail term. Newspapers and websites that publish “defamatory content” may also have their licenses revoked, while the draft law says that the constitutional right to freedom of speech can be narrowed or restricted if an expression contradicts a tenet of Islam, threatens national security, defames or causes damage to an individual, or violates societal norms.

The IFJ has joined a number of senior journalists, media workers, media outlets and organisations condemning the proposed law which is a violation of freedom of expression and press freedom.

Read more here

 

14. Join the IFJ for World Copyright Day

This year the IFJ will mark World Copyright Day on 23 April by denouncing how today’s journalists are forced to sacrifice their authors’ rights and sign unfair contracts just to keep their job.

We are looking for examples of unfair contractual clauses from all over the world that deprive journalists from their authors' rights. Such clauses can include a full assignment of the exclusive rights (reproduction, adaptation, making available) on any media of the same group, an assignment for future uses that remain unknown or to be discovered in the future, or a waiver of moral rights.

To get involved send unfair clauses samples including the name of the media using them – email Noora by April 10 - internIFJ@ifj.org

Read more here.

 

15. Myanmar journalist’s home bombed

Min Min, chief editor and general manager of the online Root Investigative Agency, a collective of local freelance journalists based in Sittwe, the capital of the western state of Rakhine, told reporters that a bomb exploded at his home in the late evening of March 10. Min Min and his family were traveling at the time of the bombing, and nobody was injured in the attack, news reports said. The residence, which also serves as a Root Investigative Agency office, was not seriously damaged by the blast, reports said. A local Kamayut Media video report on the attack's aftermath showed several deep holes in the wall surrounding the residence's compound. Min Min fled to the commercial capital of Yangon soon after the attack due to concerns for his personal security, while other Root Investigation Agency reporters and Min Min's family members, including his wife and an infant son, also fled Sittwe and are now hiding in other areas of Rakhine State.

Read more here.  

16. Safety conditions continue to deteriorate for Afghan media

According to the Afghan Journalist Centre (AFJC) there were over 191 media violations between March 2015 and March 2016 against the media in Afghanistan. The incidents included violence, threats, intimidation, and insults against journalists, a massive spike from the previous reporting year, which saw 103 incidents in the 12 month period. Government officials and elements of the Afghan military accounted for many of the attacks – 82 cases, or 43 percent, according to the AFJC. That surpassed the Taliban, linked to 52 of the incidents; “unidentified armed persons” were behind an additional 34 incidents.

Read more here and here.   

 

17. IFJ prepares to celebrate WPFD 2016

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day and this year the IFJ is calling on affiliates and friends to let us know what you are doing to mark the important day. Send details about your activities and how the IFJ can support you to alex.hearne@ifj-asia.org